Photographer's Note


"If you would use the word 'perfect,' Pele is almost there. He was the greatest soccer player in the history of this game," according to former West German star, Franz Beckenbauer, on ESPN Classic's SportsCentury.

"Heroes walk alone, but they become myths when they ennoble the lives and touch the hearts of all of us," said former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, "For those who love soccer, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, generally known as 'Pele,' is a hero."

In the 1960s and 1970s, Pele traveled the world with his club team, Santos, and his national team Brazil, entertaining crowds with his magical brand of soccer. But you didn't have to see him to believe in him. His name became a myth that traveled to the far reaches of the world. The world wanted to touch, to witness Pele. A pair of mythic figures exist in other sports — Muhammad Ali in boxing and Michael Jordan in basketball — but Pele happens to be the unrivaled king of the sport played by more people than any other. Thus no other athlete could rival the magnitude of his popularity. Indeed, he was quite simply Brazil's greatest ambassador to the rest of the world.

After Pele retired from playing the game in Brazil, he played for a few years with the New York Cosmos team. In 1976 I was attending a match between the Washington Diplomats and the visiting New York Cosmos. I was shooting with a Nikon F and an 800 mm Questar lens, equivalent to a 1200 mm digital lens. A small reflecting telescope, this was the same lens used by astronauts traveling to the moon. Of course, a tripod was necessary for the shot, as I caught Pele scoring a goal, one of 1281 goals he scored during his professional career spanning 22 year. He was 35-years old at the time. I apologize for the graininess of the photo. It is a scan of a Kodachrome-64 slide.

To see an even more dramatic, and also "ancient" shot, take a look at Bubble About to Burst!, in which the lens was a 1600-mm Questar telescope/lens.

This will be the last photo that I am able to post, before leaving for Europe for almost four weeks. I would like to dedicate this shot to some of my good Brazilian friends Nivaldo and Zeca on Trekearth.

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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6774 W: 470 N: 12149] (41261)
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